(From right to left) Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Swu of the NSCN (IM), Gen Khole and Kitovi Zhimomi of the NSCN (KK) and Brig. Singnya and Zhopra Vero of the NNC/FGN at the meeting of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation on 29 February “The biggest hurdle in finding a solution to the 64-year-old Indo–Naga dispute is that the Nagas are confused. They do not know what they want; how will a solution ever come?” explained a government official to TEHELKA less than two weeks ago. However, on Wednesday 29 February, in Dimapur, Nagaland, 52,000 Nagas from all walks of life spoke in one voice and ratified four resolutions presented in the landmark meeting of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation. Spearheaded by the Naga National Council (NNC) in 1946, the Naga struggle for sovereignty, which they claim based on their historical rights, has seen many twists and turns. The movement that started under one leader, Dr AZ Phizo, the NNC has many claimants today, in seven different ‘underground’ groups. Despite a ceasefire with the Centre, infighting between the groups has ensured that peace and relative normalcy in Nagaland remains elusive.
What compounds the problem is that though the negotiations between Government of India and Th Muivah and Isaak Swu of NSCN (IM) are in their ‘final stages’, a lasting solution is only possible if all seven groups as well as the Naga people endorse the solution. In light of this, Wednesday’s meeting could be a step in the right direction.
Three ‘underground’ groups—National Socialist Council of Nagaland [Isaak-Muivah] NSCN (IM); National Socialist Council of Nagaland [Kitovi-Khole] NSCN (KK); National Socialist Council of Nagaland [Khaplang] NSCN (K); Naga National Council/Federal Government Nagaland (NNC/FGN)—along with 52,000 Nagas from different civil societies, villages, churches and states have ratified four resolutions. The main thrust of which are:
1: Admit that the long history of the Naga conflict has inflicted deep and inexpressible pain to the Naga people, own up to their own sins, acknowledge and support those who have apologised and sought forgiveness.
Impact: This admission of guilt and subsequent forgiveness has been seen as the first step to burying years of bad blood and reconciliation.
2: End all armed conflict as of 29th February 2012.
Impact: For years now, bad blood between the groups has resulted in violence. Sporadic violence continues, but the people of Nagaland are committed to peace, that is the need of the hour.
3: They acknowledged the role, commitment and contributions of the Naga National Counil, AZ Phizo, SS Khaplang, Myanmar-based chairman of NSCN (K), Gen (Retd) Khole and Brig (Retd) Singnya.
Impact: While this may seem trivial to some, it is a big step. Phizo, Khaplang, Khole and Singya have all played a significant role in the struggle and cannot be sidelined or forgotten. This seems to be a move to placate hurt sentiments and bring them into the peace process. This is also important in light of the recent statement made by the NSCN (Khaplang) leadership who want to re-engage in the reconciliation and peace process.
4: They agreed that sovereignty lies with the Naga people and their will is supreme. Any negotiation process must focus on how the Nagas can determine, safeguard and exercise their historical and political rights in a contemporary and inter-related world.
Impact: Sovereignty has been an uneasy topic amongst the Nagas, and with globalisation, the idea of sovereignty itself has changed. It is believed that ‘absolute’ or ‘complete’ sovereignty is no longer possible, but a special arrangement with the Centre which allows the Nagas to govern themselves could be the way forward.
The biggest impact of this meeting was the recommendation made by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) to form an expert body or common platform. The body will comprise experts and intellectual who will debate, discuss and chart the next step in the Naga journey. Though the recommendation was not ratified, if created it will allow the Naga people to join and shape the peace process. The most important factor in any ‘peoples’ movement are the people. No solution is possible without them and though peace still remains elusive, this meeting— with its resolutions and recommendations—will make the groups accountable, and give the Naga people a stake in their future.
Avalok Langer is a Correspondent with Tehelka. firstname.lastname@example.org